Villa Carlotta is only a short stroll from Tremezzo but it has a boat landing stage of its own if you prefer.
There are plenty of villas around Lake Como that can be visited but Villa Carlotta is, without doubt, one of the most popular.
It was built in the 17th century for a powerful Milanese family called the Clericis, but it was Gian Battista Sommariva, a famous politician, who in 1801 bought the villa and turned it into a 'Must See' on the 'Grand Tour' with his collection of art and romantic gardens. In the second half of the 19th century Princess Marianne of Nassau bought the villa and gave it to her daughter Carlotta as a wedding present, hence the name. Her husband was a keen botanist and over the years turned it into the lush gardens that we see here today.
From a personal point of view it was the gardens, rather than the house, that did it for me. Admission is for both the House and Gardens combined so you may as well visit both while you're at it (€9 full price as of Sept 2012).
Spring would probably be the best time to come as there's a magnificent collection of Azaleas and Rhododendrons but it would be worth visiting at any time they're open.
The short walk from Cadenabbia to Tremezzo and back is quite pleasant, and on the lakeside, is completely paved. I'd found heading, out of my hotel, in the opposite direction involved a few stretches where there was no pavement and 'blind corners' where I couldn't see approaching traffic. It is a busy road!
I'd spotted metal discs (pic 2) at intervals stamped with the logo 'Greenway del Lago di Como', but didn't know what these signified.
It all became clear in Tremezzo!...... A poster with a map depicting 'Greenway del Lago di Como'!(pic 3) It's a marked route, that boasts "A leisurely and pleasant walk from Colonno to Cadenabbia di Griante - to discover Villas and Gardens, Roman findings, wonderful examples of architecture, ancient villages and charming natural views"
This route can be done as a walk, or combination of foot and public transport - Ferry and buses link the villages/towns.
If I'd had more time/been aware of this before, I might have considered doing the walk from Cadenabbia to Colonno, then returning by bus.
Guidebooks recommend visiting the gardens of the Villa Carlotta in spring, but my wife and I can attest to its autumnal beauty as well. Its mountainside setting and panoramic views of Lake Como are what set these gardens apart from other gardens visited in the past.
Open April through October
See more of my photos from the villa and gardens in a Tremezzo Travelogue
The Villa Carlotta and its gardens (covered in separate tip) were a short, easy walk from our lodging in Cadenabbia. We had arrived at Lake Como on the previous day in a steady downpour, but the day of our visit to the villa was glorious, great for photography and clear views of the lake and surrounding mountains.
The villa was built in the late 17th century in neoclassical style. We spent little time in the villa itself, being far more interested in, and captivated by, the spacious hillside gardens.
Note - closed November through March
Inside the villa you will find a small gallery with several sculptures. Some are also in the hallways and front garden, near the entrance. It's a classical feature in all wealthy villas.
Among the statues there is also Amor and Psyche (Amore e Psiche giacenti) from 18th century by Antonio Canova - click on the last picture to see. The copies exist in Louvre, Ermitage and Metropolitan Museum. It's one of my favourite works of art of Canova!
In the upper side of the Villa Carlotta gardens there is a bamboo resort. The entrance is through the big pagoda gate. There is a huge bamboo forest, tiny stream, wooden bridges... it's arranged in the oriental garden style.
The trade mark of Villa Carlotta are azaleas. You'll see them on every postcard, and every place where Villa Carlotta and Tremezzo are mentioned. Azalea bush are so wide spread and on every corner you'll see some. They are neatly taken care of and in the brightest colours!
Since almost every single plant on Earth found its place in Villa Carlotta botanical gardens, so did cacti. There is a section for cacti, although very small comparing to the space other plants/alleys took!
The villa inside is a typical wealthy family villa, nice furniture, rooms for each occasion, fantastic views from the windows and balconies, statues... It's made with a taste, and not overcrowded like baroque villas (that I completely dislike!)
There are three floors if I remember well, and there is a lift, and spiral stairs.
I added several photos to this tip, so you can see more of hos it is inside if youàre interested.
The gardens of Villa Carlotta are the most famous in the area, and on the lake most definitely so. It's full of corners to hide and romance :)), as it's like a labyrinth, with lots of passages, trails and all in flowers. There are wonderful viewpoints along the way, with a sight on the lake, and Bellagio on the other side.
Of course, the first and most wanted, and perhaps the only :)) must see in Tremezzo is Villa Carlotta. It's definitely the most famous villa on the lake Como and the most beautiful one. The road passes just in front of it, and its entrance starts already from the lake, pompous stairs! Later leading to the big front yard with fountains and gardens...
Carol is a wonderful and knowledgeable gardener and as such was looking forward to experiencing the local garden plantings. Driving along the main roads we routinely saw palms and oleander which would never make it in our garden. When we roamed about the gardens at Villa Carlotta, however, a different picture developed.
Sure there was plenty of exotic stuff but, the majority of plantings were very familiar and available to us. The annuals in particular, Carol marveled, were identical to those in our garden. Of course, they have a little more room than us and their plant massings were a bit larger but, still you could hear Carol saying, "I've got that...and that...and that...and ..."
One of the best features of the gardens at Villa Carlotta are the theme gardens. This is called the Giardino dei Bambù or Bamboo Garden. Carol insisted I climb the stairs for this shot. Something about providing scale ...you know how artists are! As you might expect, it has a decidedly Asian feel including this great Japanese gateway. The whole garden was very quiet and peaceful but, somehow, in this area the tranquility level seemed much higher. It must be a Zen thing ...not that I know what that means.
The Gardens at Villa Carlotta cover quite a large area so the many opportunities to take a little break were very welcome. This was a particularly charming spot. It had all the essential features, such as, a bench, a classic garden urn and an ornate canopy. But the best feature, by far, was the view! We are looking across the lake toward Bellagio but the mountains in the distance were really spectacular. It also doesn't hurt having Carol dressing up the foreground :-))
The concept of Villa Carlotta gardens is in labyrinths. They are usually made of azalea bush. There are also tiny paths and roads curving between the trees and foliage.